10 Tips for Writing Instructions for Your Call for Papers [INFOGRAPHIC]

 

When your association is collecting abstracts for an upcoming event, you want the process to go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved. But naturally, things can get a little complicated, especially if you’re asking speakers to submit many pages of information and multiple file types. Without clear instructions for your submission process, submitters will likely have some questions or problems that can leave them frustrated (and on the phone with tech support instead of finishing their submission).

Nobody likes working with a system that isn’t easy or intuitive. Writing instructions that are clear and concise can help submitters along the way. It’s very important that your instructions are effective. There’s no guarantee that users will read them in their entirety, but they’ll be there to guide them if they do get stuck.

Write easy-to-follow call for papers instructions with these 10 tips

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Know your audience

Some submitters may not understand the terminology in your instructions. Keep your audience’s background and demographics in mind so you use language you know they’ll understand.

Keep it short

In the age of the internet, users shy away from reading long, complex paragraphs. To increase the chances that your users will read them through, use short, easy to understand sentences.

Use simple terms

There’s no need to use fancy words when writing instructions for your call for papers. Using simple terms will make sure more people understand the process you are explaining.

Use contextual instructions

Supplement your instructions with tips that appear throughout the submission process. These additional points can be written next to specific fields, or appear when a user places their cursor over a “Help” icon. Having these instructions on the page ensures people see them right when they need them most.

Use numbers and bullets

If you want your submitters to follow the instructions like a recipe, use numbered lists to indicate the steps they need to take. If you have more general or optional instructions, use bullets.

Use the imperative

Vague statements can confuse readers. Use the imperative and write your instructions like direct commands. For example, write “Select one topic below,” instead of “Please pick from this list of topics.”

Use different typefaces and sizes

If you need to call attention to a particular instruction or warning, use bold typeface or consider changing the font style or size. Using a different colored font can also help, but keep in mind that colors can be difficult to read for some users.

Anticipate the length of the process

Give submitters an idea of how long the process will take. For example, your submission process may involve 3 sections and take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. That way, submitters will be able to ensure they have enough time to complete the submission and not be rushed.

Go through a test-run

Because you know your submission program inside and out, you will be less likely to catch instructions that might be difficult to understand. Ask a few coworkers or trusted contributors to go through the instructions and provide feedback before you open the collection site to everyone.

Don’t be afraid to change the instructions

If you think you’ve written clear instructions but you’re still receiving feedback that users are struggling with your system, it’s not too late to change your instructions. Changing them late will still give future users the chance to have a smoother submission process.

Writing instructions for your call for papers may not be as easy as it sounds. When you’re close to a project, providing detailed instructions that external users will understand can be a challenge. But, if you follow these tips, you will produce more effective instructions that can make it easier on submitters!

Now that you have an effective set of instructions for your call for papers, it’s time to get the word out! Read our whitepaper for tips on how to Promote Your Event with Conference Content Marketing.

Do you have any other tips or experiences regarding communicating instructions to your submitters?

Control Issues and Online Abstract Collection

When we say that meeting planners have control issues when it comes to managing their online collection process, we mean no disrespect.
We’re talking about who needs access to the system to be able to manage the online abstract collection process. Often we see challenges when only one person (usually the overworked meeting or educational coordinator) has to do everything in the system.
Or sometimes anyone and everyone has access to the abstracts, reviews and other information, and that can cause chaos.

Some meeting coordinators try to coach other power users of the system on how to use a part of the site and tell them to not access other areas. But this system relies on a number of leaps of faith, including trust, competence and honesty. The more control you have, the less special instructions you need to give and the lower the risk you take by not giving someone the keys to the entire system.

Here’s a list of questions to ask when you’re putting together the guidelines for system access to your online collection system for your call for presentations or abstracts.

  • Do you need to provide different levels of access to different people within the system?
  • Does your administrator need to be able to do everything, while your intern only needs to be able to access reports?
  • Will you have Program Chairs who only need access to their sessions or tracks?
  • Can you easily provide access to the public, or instead restrict access to only invited speakers?
  • Can you easily revoke access if needed?
  • How will you handle adding late submissions (after the deadline) when the site is closed without opening the entire site to everyone?

These access considerations should be determined up front. List out your different roles and what they will need access to. Will the system you use support this? It’s rare to find anyone willing to do custom programming to allow and limit access to sections of your system. It’s best to start with a system that offers flexibility upfront with roles and access.